Gagaj 'atakoa, 'ạus noa'ia 'e mạuri.

'Uạ'uạ'äk se 'ạus o'o'i rna hensạsiạg gagaj 'atakoa, 'ạus fạiäksia rna noa'ia 'e hanisit se as 'on 'is farmör Rotuma rna 'ạus leum 'e pög te' la 'is la teag'esea 'e ta 'amnäk lelei ka pumuet—la 'is la a'häe'ạkia rna 'uạ'uạ'ạkia 'os gagaj te' Dr. Alan Howard (rna 'on hạina tape' rna Dr. Jan Rensel) 'e reko garue lelei 'on ö'fa te'is ma 'on hạikanagagat rna 'is farnör Roturna 'e laloag ne fạu 50 ne väh se'.

'Is 'uạ'uạ'ak tape' rna se 'on hanisi rna a'häe lelei la väegat 'e koroa ne la rna'op'äk 'e 'os teag'eseāt 'e pög te' la vāe la mou se 'on la hạiasaoag se garue lelei ne LäjeRotuma Initiative (LRI) rērē se 'os 'ạtmot ta Roturna.

'E reko 'is rna 'os kạinag helav rna 'is 'e laloag ne 'ös teag 'esea te' rna gou far ka faksor la 'ạus la figalelei rna röt'ạk, ka gou la fạeag 'e fạeag fifis tā 'e väegat ne rak'äk väh la gou la 'on 'otou.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by saying, Fạiäksia, Vinaka Vakalevu, Dhanyavat and Thank You to all you good people who have come from abroad (USA, Australia and New Zealand) throughout Fiji and our home island of Rotuma to this joyous and auspicious occasion.

We have come together tonight for a noble cause and may I first of all take this opportunity to acknowledge, commend, congratulate and thank Ravai and Arthur Shaw and their hardworking team of like-minded people for taking the initiative in organising this evening's special function.

First and foremost we have come to commemorate and honour Dr. Alan Howard's work and very long association with the Rotuman community worldwide―a very special bond and relationship between him and our people which has endured and strengthened over a period of about 50 years.

Dr. Alan Howard has been an educator, a writer, mentor and a very special and dear friend to those of us who have come to know him over this period.

He continues to impress us with his love and compassion for our people and tonight is no exception, for although the function is organised in his honour, he had specifically requested that a donation be made from the proceeds to assist the LäjeRotuma Initiative in its work in conserving and protecting Rotuma's environment.

In this regard, I therefore believe that the theme for tonight's function; "SUSTAINING ROTUMA'S ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURAL LEGACY," which is in line and compliments Dr. Howard's interesting and eloquent address, to be most timely and apt.

Ladies and gentlemen, I deem it an honour and privilege to be invited to deliver the Vote of Thanks in acknowledging Dr. Howard's great work and service to the Rotuman people and it is my very pleasant duty to do this on behalf of the Chiefs, Elders, members and friends of our small Rotuman community.

We have come to pay tribute to someone who is very special indeed to Rotuma―someone whose unwavering commitment and dedication as an educator who refreshed our memories about our past, enlightened and rekindled our interest about our culture and traditions (who we are and what we are), but more importantly someone who constantly reminds us in a very frank and friendly way why it is imperative that we maintain and preserve our very unique identity as Rotumans.

This important task he has done with such fervour and commitment that to date, his overall contributions and achievements has now become a legacy in the annals of records about Rotuma's short history.

As a traditionalist, I believe it is prudent that Education should start by giving our young generation of today, who will be our chiefs, leaders and elders of tomorrow the knowledge and understanding of themselves, their world in general, their culture and traditions, their community―knowing one's roots and identity.

Furthermore, I also believe that this should be considered an important phase in the learning process, and unless this facet in one's education and upbringing is nurtured, directed and disciplined in creative pursuits, we the Rotumans of today and those of future generations are likely to lose our culture, traditions and unique identity.

Dr. Alan Howard, thank you very much indeed for helping us remaIn focused and committed in this regard. Y ou have made such a tremendous impact on our lives, individually and collectively and let me be so bold enough to assure you that as leaders and elders of our community, we will do our best to ensure that; "Fuạg ri ne 'ạltmot ta Rotuma, la 'ạmis la äf'äk la nono mahmahan ma 'e te' ne ava."

Knowing one's culture and traditions is so important in any educational process as it is what makes one eager and hungry for more knowledge about being part of something―the development of a sense of belonging and acceptance by the community, and the confidence to understand, master and appreciate one's environment. It is about giving ourselves a Base ―because unless we know and understand ourselves as a communal people with distinct and unique culture and traditions, we may not be able to appreciate what other cultures have to offer, particularly within a country like Fiji which is so rich in its diversity of ethnicity, cultures and traditions.

During the second half of the last century and the beginning of the 21st century with de-colonisation and the subsequent emergence of new states, Fiji being a case in point, has made international politics, economics and social interactions between nations and communities truly global for the fist time in history.

At the same time, improvements and advancement in technology has made it possible for nearly every country and different communities to be informed and as desired and necessary, to participate in events in every part ofthe world as they occur.

Consequently, Fiji and our small island community in Rotuma are no longer that isolated, we have become, whether we are ready for it or not, part of the global village and community.

Unfortunately, the explosion and latest developments in Information Technology has not been accompanied by a similar increase in knowledge―knowledge about one's culture, traditions and identity. In recent times we have developed a misguided notion that the uniformity of technology and how we interact as a global community will be accompanied by an implicit assumption that politics and even cultures and traditions will become homogenised.

As members of perhaps the smallest ethnic indigenous community on earth, I am convinced that like most of today's indigenous societies, we have unfortunately fallen prey to the temptation to ignore history and our past as we tend to judge everyday events by the criteria of our own very little knowledge of who we are and what we are.

But history and the knowledge of one's roots and unique identity do matter. History has taught us that normally prudent, ordinary knowledge, perceptions and calculations can be wrong and may be corrected and as appropriate overturned by extraordinary personalities whose very thorough research and analysis differ from the myths and legends which we have been led to believe over a period of time.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Alan Howard, Professor Emeritus in Anthropology at the University of Hawai'i is such an extraordinary person because of his very dedicated work on Rotuma over the past 50 years.

Dr. Alan Howard has had a very long and distinguished career as an academic having worked and travelled widely throughout the world and the Pacific region. I guess his interests and association with the Pacific and its people initially began when he was a lecturer at the University of Auckland, New Zealand before joining the staff of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii in the 1960s.

He was a member of the Polynesian Society and a Fellow of the American Anthropology Association for many years. Dr. Howard received his B.A in Sociology and his M.A from the Stanford University, USA and his PhD in Anthropology from the same famous institute in 1962. He joined the faculty of the University of Hawaii shortly thereafter where he tutored for many years and is now Professor Emeritus in Anthropology of the University.

Dr. Alan Howard initially arrived in Rotuma on the 17th December 1959 as a young 25 year old university graduate student from the Standford University, USA to work towards the completion of a dissertation for his Doctorate in Anthropology.

As a high school student in Malhaa at that time, I guess I shared the same curiosity like most Rotumans about the ''furạu ta". I was equally mystified about his visit, with rumours abound about the presence and intent of the "Fā Merek ta or Fā Fis ta"?

The title of Dr. Howard's thesis was: "Change and Stability in the Rotuman System of Land Tenure" and he could not have arrived on the island at a more difficult time to pursue his studies on such a very sensitive, topical and controversial issue like Land Tenure, as prior to his arrival, the Government of Fiji at that time was very concerned and apprehensive over the turmoil that had been created by its proposal for Land Reforms in Rotuma.

It was a proposition on the part of a colonial government which was insensitive to the wishes of the people who were not consulted about the issue. Rotumans like all indigenous people regard anything to do with the hanua as sacrosanct and were strongly opposed to the Government's proposal to change the status quo regarding land ownership and inheritance rights.

The issue aroused so much resentment on the island that it was put on hold and to date, the Land Commission which was mandated to carry out the work has not been able to make any further inroads into implementing a policy and change which I believe if not resolved amicably in the best interest of Rotumans, could be detrimental to social cohesion and peace and harmony within the wider Rotuman community.

As the majority of the villagers did not understand the real purpose of Dr. Howard's visit and prolonged stay on the island, coupled with his numerous interviews and taped conversations with the chiefs, religious leaders and elders, some often referred to him as the 'spy', or more pleasantly in some quarters, the grandson of Charles Howard, an American who came to Rotuma in the early 19th century and remained to establish a sizeable progeny.

Besides the he' as väväre and the fact that Dr. Alan Howard was trying to complete his work without the benefit of a role that the islanders understood, being a complete and total stranger on an isolated island so far away from home and loved ones, among natives whose language, culture and traditions he did not know, let alone understand, Dr. Howard persevered and successfully completed his work about a year after he arrived.

By the time he was ready to leave the island, he had become accepted as a member of the community because of his frank, friendly and humble deportment with everyone whom he had come into contact with regarding his work. Even the skeptics were convinced that he was genuine and meant well.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that it was probably at this juncture of his life, that Dr. Howard developed a love affair (if I may refer to it as that), with Rotuma and its people―an affectionate and mutually respectful relationship that has developed and strengthened over a period spanning five decades. It is a very special association and personal relationship which has also been beneficial for him as an academic and similarly to all Rotumans, scholars and non-Rotumans alike who undoubtedly would have gained from the outcomes of his research, knowledge, experience and documentation of his work pertaining to Rotuman society in general.

During the course of his work and interaction with the kainaga in Rotuma, here in Fiji and abroad, Dr. Howard has, as to be expected travelled very widely in visiting Rotuman communities in the mainland USA, the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Dr. Howard has written quite extensively too about Rotuma and its people. He is a prolific writer, who is so passionate and knowledgeable about Rotuma that it is such a pleasure reading through his books and various publications or even attempting to summarise his oeuvre. His earlier publications in the Journal of Polynesian Society included:

Rotuma as a Hinterland Community (1961)
Conversation and Non-Traditional Leadership in Rotuma (1963)
Land Tenure and Social Change (1964)
The Rotuman District Chief (1966)

I have read this last publication, The Rotuman District Chief with great interest as Dr. Howard's findings reinforces and confirms my own views about the problems associated with chiefly leadership in Rotuma and why someone like me is being perceived as a threat when I attempt to change attitudes and mindsets and instill some degree and semblance of accountability and transparency in how the island community should be ruled and administered in this present day and age.

I always enjoy reading and re-reading Dr. Howards's first book on Rotuma, titled "Learning To be Rotuman," which was published in 1970, because it provided me with a better understanding and perspective about who and what we are as Rotumans. The book also highlighted the environmental, historical, cultural and social issues which I believe an indigenous person should know and fully understand about one's identity.

Whilst I do not wish to sound presumptuous or be overly critical about the education system in general, I would like to nevertheless contend that his findings and views as espoused in the book could contribute greatly to the conceptual foundations and strategies that the teaching process should incorporate in those situations in which educators and students come from divergent cultural backgrounds. I further contend that what Dr. Howard found and documented about Rotuma would be of great significance for those who formulate Government policies or for those who work within pluralistic cultural settings. It was interesting to note that he also established and concluded that biculturalism is both possible and desirable.

In November 1996, Dr. Howard constructed a Web Site dedicated to providing a space on the Internet for the members of the now global Rotuman community to communicate with one another. This was another milestone in his untiring efforts in trying to maintain and improve our hạlikạlinagaga worldwide―a much welcomed and again commendable effort on his part.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Howard's long association and support for the global Rotuman community would not have been possible without the encouragement and support of his lovely wife, Dr. Jan Rensel; therefore, it would be remiss of me if I do not acknowledge and commend her also for her tremendous and invaluable contributions in complementing her husband's work.

In 1994, Dr. Rensel was awarded a Ph.D in Anthropology at the University of Hawai'i for her role on, "Economic and Social Change in Rotuma." She is Managing Editor at the Centre for Pacific Studies and Adjunct Faculty Member of the Department of Anthropology, University of Hawaii.

Referring to Dr. Rensel reminds me of the famous English adage of, "Behind a Great Man, There is a Woman," but in the case of these two very special people, I am so glad to say that it should not be Behind, instead, Beside Professor Howard, there is a very caring, loving, talented and gifted academic colleague and dear wife who is equally committed and passionate about Rotuma and its people.

Dr. Rensel's contribution to the book "Rotuma Hanuạ Pumue," which she wrote on "Housing and Social Relationships on Rotuma," not only confirms, but also cautions us in a frank and pragmatic way about the phenomenons of Outmigration and Remittances which dramatically affect social and economic life in Pacific island societies today. She concluded that; "The emerging high standard of consumption, modelled after urban wage earners and fuelled by increasing affluence, may undermine our subsistence economy, shatter community solidarity and increase social differentiation."

In her work she also rightly predicted that; "The material wealth which some Rotumans now enjoy may be contributing to the demise of customary aspects of Rotuman life, including the evaluation of social merit, concepts of property, and the interdependent network of relationships previously sustained by reciprocal exchange."

How sad and true. These changes to our traditional lifestyle are so pronounced today as I have come to witness during my recent prolonged stays on the island―our way of reciprocity, of 'hạikanagaga, hạihanesiga rna hạigarueaga," has unfortunately become a thing of the past.

Dr. Rensel, thank you very much for those insightful findings and conclusions about these potential threats to the retention of our traditional values and our survival as a race, as evidently and regrettably, our respect and reverence for one another has dissipated and waned to an extent that materialism, individualism and instant gratification has become the norm in how we interact today.

These revelations should therefore be a welcomed wake-up call for us and future generations of our people. We should take note and be wary of such changes within our small community.

Let us pause, and do some soul-searching and seriously ask ourselves if "the benefits of the good life" we now take for granted and enjoy, has been worth the cost of us losing our unique culture and heritage?

Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Alan Howard and Dr. Jan Rensel's joint publication and book about Rotuma, titled, "Island Legacy, A History of Rotuma and Its People," which was published in 2007, is perhaps the best researched and comprehensive publication about Rotuma and its people to date. The book encapsulates our entire history from the hanuju of Raho and Tokaniua, the early migration voyages through the Pacific by our ancestors, through to the discovery of the island by Captain Edwards of the HMS Pandora in 1791 whilst scouring the Pacific ocean for the mutineers of the Bounty, to the arrival of the early European traders to our shores, the days of the Mua, Fakpure and Sạu, the days of conflict and tribal wars fuelled by the advent of Christianity, culminating in the wars of1871 and the final Battle ofSạukama in 1878, leading up to the Cession of 1881, the Colonial era to the pre- and post-Independence period, to the present day of traumatic social-political and economic situations consequent upon the military coups of recent years during Fiji's evolution into nationhood and political maturity.

As a Rotuman, I consider this book a masterpiece as it clearly highlights and portrays Dr. Howard's genuine concerns and interest in Rotuma and its people, but more importantly his findings, views and opInIons on how, we of today's generation should cherish, protect, preserve and be forever mindful of our individual and collective obligations in ensuring that our unique cultural heritage is safeguarded and revered at all times so that Rotuma remains an Island Paradise―a place where we and future generations of Rotumans would continue to be proud to call HOME!

Ladies and gentlemen, please let me refer to LäjeRotuma Initiative. To Ms. Monifa Fiu and her group of young Rotumans, on behalf of all of us, I would like to say:

Fạiäksia ma Noa'ia 'e Garua lelei.

Congratulations and thank you for your presentation;

"Accomplishments and Future Goals"

I have no doubt that we all share LRI's Vision of: "Maximising Future Environmental and Sustainable Options for Rotuma and Her People," and indeed also support LRI's main goal of "Educating our People to make Informed Decisions on Sustainable Management of Rotuma's Natural Resources."

As an Island People, living on a very small island within the vast Pacific Ocean, I guess we have not got much choice as we only have a very small piece of real estate on this planet whose total land mass of approximately 11, 000 square hectares or about 44 square kilometers, which we can really and rightfully claim to be our own.

It is only a tiny speck on the map of the world, but it is so special to you and me because it is Home―therefore it is incumbent upon us and future generations of Rotuma to protect, and preserve its Environment and Territorial Integrity at all times, particularly in this day and age of global warming and pollution.

In this regard, ladies and gentlemen, let us rally behind LRI and give the group our total support. At the same time let us also acknowledge and thank Dr. Howard and Dr. Rensel for their support in dedicating a section of the Rotuma Web site to LRI and contributing financially to some of its projects.

For those of us who will be returning to live in Rotuma, let us by all means enjoy the products of the island's rich and fertile volcanic soil, the abundance of fish and other marine resources within our reefs, our lovely white sandy beaches and clear pristine waters, but at the same time let us be always mindful of the threat of degradation and pollution and work together as a community to look after and preserve what little we have.

Presently a number of major infrastructure development projects have been confirmed for Rotuma and let me assure you all that as the Council of Rotuma's Special Representatives with the Interim Government, Dr. John Fatiaki and I will ensure that the required Environmental Impact Assessments are carried out as necessary.

After two and a half years of bureaucratic wrangling with ship owners and other stakeholders, Dr. John and I were able to have the wreck of the MV "Bulou Ni Ceva", which had become a rustbucket and eyesore on the Oinafa foreshore finally removed and safely sunk. This saga was eventually resolved when Dr. John had to tow the wreck with his fishing boat after it was re-floated following the failure of the contractor to get a tugboat to Rotuma in time. We were so thankful and relieved that there was no oil spillage which could have caused a major environmental disaster for Rotuma's eco-system. The Fisheries Department has been requested to develop the wreck into a Fisheries Aggregate Device (FAD) for the benefit of our local fishermen.

To Ms. Letila Mitchell and your group of young Rotuman artists, we would like to commend and congratulate you for your untiring efforts in trying to revive and promote Rotuman art and culture through RAKO;

Fạiäksia rna Noa'ia 'e garue lelei tape' ma!

Dr. John and I were quiet impressed with the work of our young artists when you invited us to view some of their work in your capacity as Director, Fiji Arts Council recently―you can count on our support in your future endeavours.

We look forward to your cultural performance later on in this evening's programme.

Ladies and gentlemen, please let me conclude by reminding us once again that we have come to pay tribute to a Man―a Man of high ideals and great integrity whose great work and long association with the global Rotuman community is worthy of praise and our sincere appreciation and gratitude.

Over the years many visitors have come to our beautiful island and gone, and none have returned so often, nor stayed for so long, but more importantly none has played a more prominent and important role in educating us about the effects of progress and modernity in a Western Cosmopolitan culture context against that of Rotuma's village culture, than Dr. Alan Howard.

To Dr. Howard (and your lovely wife Dr. Rensel), your work and association with Rotuma and its people is another wonderful story of history in the making, and I think that your joint contributions to our rather short history should be recorded and documented as another Rotuman Hanuju―one that should be told, studied and understood by all generations of Rotumans.

You deserve nothing less

In accordance with customary protocol of reciprocity, and as a token of our appreciation and gratitude, we would like to present you with our most treasured and revered Rotuman gift and say;

"Fạiäksia ma Noa'ia ko Gagaj 'e Fe'eni rna Garue Lelei;
Fạiäksia ma Noa'ia ko Gagaj 'e Hạikạinagag ma Hạigarueag Lelei;
Fạiäksia ma Noa'ia ko Gagaj 'e Hạifakte'ạkiga ma Hāhān'äk ne se 'ạmis ma 'otomis
Temamfua Ne Sei 'Amis ?
Fạiäksia rna Noa'ia ko Gagaj 'e Hanis uạnmạfut se 'ạmis Famör Rotuma
Gagaj 'Aitu la a' hanis ma Alạlum'äk tör ne 'Omuạr Mạuri"


(JK KONROTE) Major General (Ret'd)